BREAKING NEWS: Transit union files grievance over ferry cuts

Contract prohibits changes to ferry workers' schedule without consultation.

The union representing bus drivers and ferry workers has filed a grievance with Metro Transit, objecting to cuts in the ferry service scheduled to begin August 27.

Amalgamated Transit Local 508 president Ken Wilson confirms that the grievance was filed Friday, but would not discuss it with The Coast. "I gave my word I wouldn't go to the media with this," says Wilson. "We'll go through the grievance procedures and let the process work."

The union cited Article 52 of the recently adopted contract between Metro Transit and ATU. That section deals with scheduling of ferry operators, and reads:

52.01 The regular hours of work for all employees will be as set out in Article 62 and will not exceed forty (40) hours per week when averaged over a full shift rotation.

52.02 (a) The hours of work and shifts set out in Article 62 will apply unless:
(i) the parties agree, in writing, to modify them, or
(ii) there is a change in service which requires adding more runs to the ferry schedule, or
(iii) one or more of the ferries is out of service for more than one week.

(b) If one or more of the ferries is out of service for more than one week, affected employees will work one or more of the following schedules:
(i) the same schedule at another location
(ii) the schedule of another employee they are temporarily replacing or assisting,
(iii) or the hours required for training, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

(c) If there is a change in service which requires changing the ferry schedule, the Employer will provide the parameters of the service required. The Employer and a Union representative will jointly develop a fair and equitable distribution of hours (minimum of 40 hours per work week, with salary adjusted on a pro-rata basis) for the crews. Should the parties be unable to agree upon a new schedule, the Employer will develop a shift schedule. Such a shift schedule shall be on a weekly basis and will be selected in order of seniority. All daily shifts will be between six and one-half (6.5) hours and twelve (12) hours, with no more than a twelve (12) hour spread. Employees who work more than a twelve (12) hour spread will be paid at time and a half for the portion of their shift that is beyond twelve (12) hours. Where possible there will be a minimum of two consecutive days off. Employees will have an opportunity to pick their shifts at least every three months.

This portion of the contract was not a matter of disagreement in the recently resolved transit strike. The language remains unchanged since the 2003 contract between Metro Transit and ATU.

The language of 52.02 (a) appears to state that ferry schedules can be changed only if one of the three conditions apply—that the union and management agree in writing to a change, that management adds ferry service or that a ferry is out of service for at least a week.

At issue is interpretation of the rest of the Article. The union's understanding is that 52.02 (b) deals with what happens under 52.02 (a) (iii)—that is, when ferry hours are cut because one of the ferries is out of service for a week. Likewise, the union says that 52.02 (c) deals with what happens under 52.02 (a) (ii), when hours are added, hence the language about overtime and making sure employees get two consecutive days off.

The union says their notes from the 2003 negotiations supports their position. The expectation is that Metro Transit will consult their notes from the same negotiations. If no agreement is reached, the issue will go to arbitration.

In practical terms, the cuts in ferry service will not result in less regular pay for ferry workers, but only in changed schedules. Each worker is scheduled a total of 2003 hours per year, with a combination of 44- and 36-hour weeks; with the cuts in service, ferry workers will continue to be scheduled 2003 hours per year, but will have permanent 38.5-hour weekly schedules. (Holidays, sick time and vacation and subtracted from those numbers, overtime is added.) It's unclear how the cuts will affect overtime pay, however.

Pay for ferry engineers and deckhands starts at $45,672 per year and with longevity they can make up to $52,445. Pay for mates and shore engineers is between $55,488 and $64,339. Captains make from $61.557 to $71,953.

A call for comment to the city's communication department was not immediately returned.

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